Statement by the Government Chief Whip & Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Mr Tom Kitt T.D. on the Motion seeking approval for the despatch of a Contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with EUFOR, the EU-led Mission/Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Thursday, 25 November 2004
At the outset, I would like to thank the House and the Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights, for the expeditious manner in which they have dealt with this matter. It is obviously important that our national decision procedures in relation to these matters work efficiently and effectively. In an increasingly violent world where conflict can so quickly arise and so quickly get out of hand, it is important that we can make the necessary decisions about providing troops in support of Peacekeeping operations. I think the manner in which the House has dealt with this matter shows the way in which these necessarily speedy decisions can be made.
We had a very helpful and constructive debate in Committee yesterday. I would particularly like to thank the Committee for their kind remarks in relation to the Defence Forces, who have made us so proud of the way in which they have approached their role as ambassadors for peace throughout the world. Because of the manner in which they have conducted themselves, working in difficult and dangerous situations, they have brought great honour and goodwill to Ireland. I witnessed this at first hand during my visit to Liberia in March of this year.
Chairman Bryant of the National Transitional Government of Liberia particularly mentioned this, when he called on me earlier this week to express his appreciation for Ireland’s contribution to peace in Liberia. He specifically paid tribute to the professionalism, the humanity and the kindness of the Irish Soldiers serving in UN Mission in Liberia - UNMIL. He remarked on the way the local people come out to greet the Irish soldiers when they see them on patrol, waving to the soldiers, cheering them and warmly welcoming their presence and the very important work that they do. Such are the reports we receive in respect of all of our Defence Forces, wherever they serve. They are not just professional international peacekeepers, but humanitarians and goodwill ambassadors, welcomed wherever they go. It is, without doubt, a tribute to our Defence Forces that we have come to expect no less.
Moving on to the business in hand, I would just like to outline to the House the reason for the motion, the need for its speedy adoption and provide some information on the EUFOR Mission.
As you are aware, under the Defence Acts, the deployment of a contingent of the Defence Forces on an overseas mission requires prior UN authorisation, Government approval and the approval of Dáil Éireann. The process referred to as “the triple lock”.
The Government had expected that the necessary Security Council Resolution would have been passed by the end of October. However, for various reasons, this did not happen. This had to do with the need to finalise certain technical issues in relation to the continuing role of NATO on this mission vis-à-vis the role of the EU. In addition, NATO assets are being deployed in support of the EU operation and certain issues in this regard had to be finalised before the Security Council could finalise its formal resolution. These issues were resolved last Friday and the Security Council then moved very expeditiously, on Monday, to formally adopt resolution 1575, which was passed - unanimously - by the Security Council on Monday last, the 22nd November.
The delay in finalising the Resolution at the Security Council has imposed significant time constraints on Ireland completing its national decision-making procedures. The EU is due to takeover the mission on the 2nd of December and our troops have to be deployed, in theatre, prior to the commencement date.
As I’m sure the members will appreciate, it would have been inappropriate to bring a motion before the Dáil, in the absence of the final UN Security Council Resolution authorising the establishment of EUFOR.
Decision of the Government in relation to EUFOR
On 9 November, 2004, the Government authorised the Minister for Defence, to, inter alia
§ Arrange for the dispatch a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force, for a period of one year, for service with EUFOR, the EU-led Mission/Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to be established under the authority of the UN, as the legal successor to the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and
§ to move a resolution in Dáil Éireann approving the despatch of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with EUFOR.
Pursuant to this authority and the passage of the appropriate Security Council Resolution, the following motion has been placed on the Order Paper for Dáil Éireann:
“That Dáil Éireann approves the despatch, pursuant to section 2 of the Defence (Amendment)(No. 2) Act, 1960, as applied by Defence (Amendment) Act, 1993, of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with EUFOR, established under the authority of UN Security Resolution No. 1575 of the 22nd November, 2004”.
Under the terms of the UN Security Resolution, EUFOR is the legal successor to the current SFOR mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was established in 1996 under a previous UN Security Council Resolution. Members of the Defence Forces have served with SFOR since 1997, with the approval of the Government and Dáil Éireann. Since then, the UN Security Council has authorised the continuation of SFOR for successive periods and the Government has approved continued Irish participation.
At the Copenhagen European Council in December, 2002, the heads of State of the EU indicated willingness to lead a military operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a follow-on mission to SFOR. The Government subsequently agreed that, subject to completion of national decision-making procedures and the appropriate UN Mandate, that the Defence Forces would participate in a substantive manner in the then planned EU-led follow-on mission.
Similar to SFOR, EUFOR will be a Chapter VII mission; that is, it is entitled to use force to implement its mandates and to protect itself and the international civil presence.
The role of EUFOR will be to assist the parties, to implement the Dayton Peace Accord and to contribute to the continued development of the secure environment necessary for the consolidation and stabilisation of peace in the region. It undertaking this important work, EUFOR will co-operate and work with the other agencies principally involved in the Region. This cooperation covers a wide range of activities, including maintaining security and preventing a resumption of violence, supporting counter terrorism and the fight against organised crime, facilitating freedom of movement for the local population and assisting the return of refugees.
Basis for Ireland’s Participation
The basis of Ireland’s participation in International Peacekeeping is firmly grounded in the UN. Ireland is - and always has been - a strong and committed supporter of cooperative multilateral arrangements for collective security through the development of international organisations, particularly the United Nations. In this regard, Ireland has recognised and defended the primary role of the Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
The UN has recognised the advantages presented by the existence of regional organisations to which it can assign a mission. This is one of the major developments in the changing environment of UN peacekeeping. This increasing reliance of the UN on regional action for crisis management has, in part, contributed to the impetus towards development of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), which focuses on crisis management and humanitarian operations, the so-called “Petersberg Tasks”. The EU and UN are natural partners in the field of peacekeeping and crisis management.
The European Union now has the capacity to mount peacekeeping operations. It has engaged in two military operations so far, in Macedonia and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Operation ‘Artemis’ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which the Defence Forces played an active part, is an example of the potential inherent in this development, where the EU provided a force, under a UN Security Council resolution, with France as the framework nation.
Similar developments are occurring between the UN and other regional organisations. In the case of Liberia, the initial deployment of troops was from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); in the case of Kosovo, it was N.A.T.O. As Deputies will be aware, when the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan visited Ireland recently, he welcomed the developments in ESDP and, in particular, the development of EU Rapid Response Elements which could be deployed at short notice in support of UN peacekeeping operations.
Ireland is a strong supporter of a substantive involvement by the EU in crisis management missions within the framework of ESDP. Irish participation in ESDP operations is fully in keeping with Ireland’s commitment to the UN and our policy of military neutrality. Our activities in the ESDP and the UN are complementary and mutually reinforcing and all decisions on Irish participation in ESDP missions are taken on a case-by-case basis, and are subject to the “triple lock” approach. Against this background, the Government is fully supportive of the participation of the Defence Forces in a substantive manner in the EUFOR mission.
Irish participation in EUFOR
Twelve members of the Permanent Defence Force currently serve in SFOR HQ. These personnel will transfer to EUFOR upon the take-over of the mission by the EU. It is proposed to deploy an additional 42 personnel to EUFOR as part of a Finnish-led Multinational Task Force. This will bring Ireland’s total deployment in the mission to 54. As is the case in all missions, a small number of additional personnel may be deployed, from time to time, to fill other roles within the overall mission.
Within the Finnish-led Task Force, Ireland will provide personnel for the Headquarters, the Military Police Unit, Joint Military Affairs Verification Teams and a National Support Element. An officer will also serve at the Operational Headquarters in SHAPE.
Ireland is the Framework Nation for the Military Police Unit and for the Joint Military Affairs Verification Teams; that is, it provides the central headquarters role in relation to these elements within the Task Force headquarters. Subject to Dáil approval, deployment to EUFOR will take place next week with a view to commencing operations on the takeover of the mission by the EU on 2nd December. Initial deployment would be for 1 year, with the possible extension thereafter, subject to renewal of the UN mandate and a satisfactory review of the mission.
The Government attaches great importance to the overall health, welfare and security of all our troops who serve on overseas missions. While no absolute guarantees can be given with regard to the safety of troops serving in missions, it is my policy and practice to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately trained and equipped to carry out their mission. All possible precautions are taken to ensure the safety of our troops. Standard Operating Procedures are reviewed as necessary.
Troops selected for overseas service undergo a rigorous programme of training designed to help them carry out their peacekeeping mission and to provide for their protection. Due to the equipment modernisation programmes that have taken place in the Defence Forces over the past few years, Defence Forces personnel serving on all overseas missions are equipped with the most modern and effective equipment. This equipment enables troops to carry out the mission assigned, as well as providing the required protection specific to the mission.
The Security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently assessed as stable, primarily due to the strong International Community presence in the country. The attitude of the political parties and of the general public in Bosnia and Herzegovina to an increased EU presence ranges from neutral to positive. The phase during the handover by SFOR to EUFOR could be used by some elements, who are adept at using any opportunity to cause trouble, to increase their activities. Disaffected parts of the population may also use this period to express discontent with their socio-economic situation. Thus far, however, there have been no concrete indications that any such activities are planned.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been relatively calm for some time now. It is a very different mission to that which we are undertaking in Liberia, for example. The level of protection provided to the force is commensurate with its assignment. In this regard, personnel will be deployed with personal protection weapons and with the body protection and kit, which is appropriate to the environment in which they are operating.
Ongoing threat assessments are carried out in mission areas and we continually review both personal equipment and force assets, to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately equipped to fulfil their roles. The situation will be no different on this mission and any additional resources or force protection assets required will be deployed as needed.
Similar to SFOR, all troop contributors to EUFOR are responsible for their own costs. It is estimated that the additional costs to the Defence Vote arising from participation in EUFOR will amount to €3,458,456.
This is a very important mission for the EU and for Ireland. It is a mission undertaken under UN authorisation and is the largest EU mission yet deployed. Ireland’s contribution to this mission is a clear manifestation of the importance the Government attaches to the development of EU capabilities in the area of crisis management and peacekeeping, in support of the UN.
In conclusion, I would like to commend the individual soldiers, who have served and who continue to serve on overseas missions, together with their families and loved ones. Without their loyal and continuing support, Ireland’s strong tradition of service overseas, under the auspices of the United Nations, would not be possible. Their committed and dedicated service in overseas missions reflects well not alone on the Defence Forces, but on the nation as a whole and contributes to the excellent reputation, which Ireland holds among peacekeepers throughout the world.
I commend the motion to the House.
25 November 2004Statement by the Government Chief Whip & Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Mr Tom Kitt T.D. on the Motion seeking approval for the despatch of a Contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with EUFOR, the EU-led Mission/Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Thursday, 25 November 2004
24 November 2004Statement by the Minister for Defence, Mr. Willie O’Dea, T.D., on the Motion seeking approval for the despatch of a Contingent of the Permanent Defence Force for service with EUFOR, the EU-led Mission/Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wednesday, 24 November 2004
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